Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sewing Workshop Mission Tank

I have written entries about other TNT patterns that I've worked with time and time again. After a few questions posed about the Sewing Workshop Mission Tank, I decided to share how this one came to be a TNT for me.

This is the pattern:

I found the pattern when I went to a sewing expo in Worcester, MA at the Vogue Fabrics booth. I had just come from a class with Fred Bloebaum and she was selling her patterns at the booth. In my mind, I was going to purchase two of her patterns, and I did (which btw I still haven't sewn!) when I saw this pattern. At the time I was still on the search for the "Great Tank Pattern".

After three children, I didn't necessarily have a lithe, young body anymore and was starting to dress to cover some areas of my body rather than expose them. I had stopped tucking in tops and needed one that would give me style but flatter my larger than I liked abdomen. Thus began the search for the great tank pattern...the one that would fit, flatter and work easily into my work wardrobe.

Since I am not a huge fan of indy patterns, I kinda stumbled onto this one. I saw several made up in the booth at the expo and thought, "Why not?" Famous last words...since this is one of my all time favorite TNT patterns. I will admit that the first few attempts at making this pattern were barely wearable. I made wrong fabric choices. The fit wasn't great. I didn't really have a vision yet...but I preserved and continued to work with it.

First, the pattern contains 4 pieces ~ a front piece, a back piece which are both cut on the fold and two binding for the neckline and one for the armholes. A very simple piece...however, it contains no on a plus size woman that's like wearing two big ole pieces of fabric...making you look like you are wearing either a tent or a very short muu-muu. I ain't no muu-muu girl.

When I began working with this pattern I should have been discouraged because the first few pieces weren't that great, but for some reason I was intrigued...and then I decided to make changes to the pattern. The first change I made to the pattern was to remove the excess fabric around the dart I did not do a FBA (full bust adjustment) wasn't on my radar yet...I just sliced the pattern at the armhole and overlapped the pieces to form a dart. Now I don't know if this is "good" patternmaking or not but it took care of that excess fabric hanging out in the armhole area and gave me a better defined bustline.

This was the last version of the tank that I made with the binding at the neckline and was a part of a collection called "The Burda Six"

After that I got really bold with the pattern...I added a center back seam. I stopped using the binding pieces. I omitted the vents and added some more width to the bottom of the tank. I changed the neckline - giving it a lower more u-shaped neck. Then I started experimenting with knits because this tank pattern was designed for wovens.

My first experiment with knits was a single cotton knit purchased from Fabric Mart that I used as part of another collection and also as part of a twinset...I think this was its first incarnation as a 2 piecer...

A simple basic top with the neckline and armholes turned down and stitched, the neckline altered to have more of a v-neck, that center back seam and it cut just a little closer to the body to allow for the fabrication of the knit.

I have now made this top about 15 times. It has appeared in every SWAP collection I have sewn, most prominently featured in my last entry in the 2007 Timmel SWAP contest, the "Corporate Chic" collection.

This pattern is so versatile that I have made it in everything from all kinds of knits (single cotton knit, rayon knit & the beautiful St. John knit), to a cashmere/wool blend, silks (sueded, twill, woven), linens and embroidered cottons.

Now we come to this pattern's present evolution ~ the bow-tied tank. About 18 months ago, I switched jobs from a busy casual environment to a more corporate atmosphere. My clothing requirements changed drastically and I have spent the last 18 months sewing at a break neck pace to have enough garments to wear for all office occasions. I am finally at the place where I can stop and breathe and part of the reason is this tank top.

Somewhere and I don't know where I saw one similar to this latest incarnation. It could have been in a magazine or catalog...on a website or even on the street...but somehow the look stuck in my mind. I thought I could make one more morph or adjustment to the SW Mission Tank to accomplish this look...and it worked! Boy did it work! Here's a picture of my three latest versions of the SW Mission Tank with a bow tie:

This was a simple alteration...the neckline had already been changed from the straight u-neck to more of a v-neck.

• I added ties by cutting long rectanges 3" wide by 30" long.

• The tie was then sewn to the neckline leaving a 2" opening at the u-neck.

• At the ends of the seams, a piece of rayon seam tape is sewn to the pieces to provide some support.

• Then the seam is pressed up.

• The other end of the tie is sewn down from the right side of the fabric by stitching in the ditch.

• The 2" front piece is clipped at either ends and sewn down.

• The tie is either folded onto each other and stitched down or sewn right sides together and then pulled through using some hand stitching to finish off the edges.

That was it! A new version of the SW Mission Tank was born...and I must admit my favorite version of it so far.

A final picture of a dozen or so of the working pieces in my closet...

I know its redundant, probably a little excessive but it works so well in my wardrobe that I will continue to make more of these tanks. Hopefully, you will find a pattern that you love, that works well in your wardrobe ~ whatever your lifestyle, and will bring you as much sewing joy as this one has brought me!


  1. I love when you show us what can be done with one pattern and some vision. I have a few TNT patterns but nothing like you - I want to change that. My problem, is that I'm so flighty. I'm always swayed by the next pretty thing that comes along and I don't do enough work with one pattern. With your inspiration I hope to change that.

  2. Amazing what you can do with only one pattern. Thanks for sharing the evolution.

  3. I believe firmly that a simple piece like this which will work under a jacket for business, or with a skirt or pants for warm weather casual wear, is the backbone of wardrobes. If I have one simple black skirt, and a dozen tops to go with it, I have a dozen different outfits. It's great you made this work so very well!

  4. Great story... cool pictures... and amazing mileage from just one pattern!

  5. Wow, Carolyn what a great post. This tank is a real work horse for you. And you can quickly whip one up when you feel like something new.

  6. Now I fully understand the meaning of TNT. You really worked this pattern, and all the incarnations you showed really express the versatility of the piece.

  7. Wow! Carolyn, this is awesome. I'm so glad you shared this with us. I don't have a TNT pattern for the t-necks I wear all winter long, but I make them work with everything, just as you make the tanks work with everything.

    Vicki called this a workhorse...and how!!

  8. I came back to your blog just to look at the cream St.John twinset again- and here is a post all about the tank-with-a-tie!

    It's such a great look and it really stuck with me.

  9. Carolyn, great story! I was wondering how you came upon the tank pattern. I'm hoping to create a few more TNT basics this summer. I have some but I'm not as creative as you, so they end up looking all the same. And I'm a sucker for the next new pattern that comes along (or old one).

  10. Thanks for sharing the story and all your versions of this tank.

  11. Carolyn, thanks for answering a question I've had ever since you first mentioned this tank pattern. I always wondered how you managed to make it work so well for you without bust darts! I'm working at finding a perfect tank pattern, too, so I appreciate this post. I've had a TNT pants pattern for years but didn't know that's what it was called until I found your blog! Thanks for all the information and inspiration!

    Sherry in Little Rock

  12. I am a tank girl myself. I don't thing there is much that is as versatile as the simple tank. thanks for the reminder, and the inspiration! Great variations - and I often feel like I need the dart right there at the arm as well, but I've never done it because I thought it would look funny. I can't even see it on yours!

  13. Oh, I forgot to ask, since this was originally designed for wovens and you used it for both woven and knit, would you make any changes other than ease if you were to go the other way? I have a couple of knit tank patterns, but would like to make them out of a woven.

  14. A picture really is worth a thousand words! I cannot believe that every top in your picture came from one pattern. Your vision and ability to adapt this simple pattern your needs is inspiring!

  15. Carolyn, what a fabulous story. You give me inspiration to keep working towards a TNT knit top pattern (not being a tank top girl).

  16. Wow, I especially love the last picture showing all of the "sister" tanks. You really got your money's worth from this pattern! I've really got to get into this TNT thing.

  17. Truly amazing! The way you are telling the story of this pattern since it's early age until the present time almost feels like you are talking of something alive! This pattern has evolved, has matured... I bet every single tank made from this pattern has even more stories to tell...
    I am not a TNT person (yet) but I get nostalgic about some garments I made in the past. I feel compelled to use them again, specially those that remember something important in my life. Let's say I have revisited and will revisit some of the patterns that made me feel really unique when I wore the garments made of them!

  18. I think the very first post I ever read was about TNT patterns (I didn't know what TNT meant at the time) in which you challenged sewers to develop. I saw that SW mission tank - the white one with the lace inset and fell in love with it. Developing TNT patterns made a lot of sense to me then and still does. I have developed only one this far (my TNT pants pattern) that my sewing buddy Lisa helped me alter. I do plan on developing more, and more, and owe the inspiration to do so to you. THANKS!

  19. WOW! I am looking forward to having TNTs again (I had them when I did a lot of sewing in my 20's).

    And I talked to Fred once when I ordered some of her patterns. She was very nice.

  20. Now you can even take it a step further and try it on the bias.

  21. Only a person with an imagination and not afraid to "venture out" of the norm can create such tops with one pattern. I strive to be able to become that creative. Great job!

  22. I totally understand about the tank thing. I never had one since the last child that I felt comfortable in until I made a couple recently that kept things covered on top. I could live in them as they have a dart thanks to an fba alteration that I think I have learned how to do. I am inspired from your blog to do some more work on my new tnt. You have done a fantastic wardrobe stretcher with these variations. mssewcrazy


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